You have some metal you want to work your magic on. A benchtop metal lathe is your wand of choice. So many to choose from!
Highly favored by many shop owners and workers, benchtop metal lathes are essential items for any workshop but they can be dangerous.
There are a number of things that could go wrong if you choose the wrong lathe or the tool isn’t used properly. The ease of identifying and diagnosing faults cannot be over-emphasized.
Obviously, you’d prefer no faults but even worse than having a fault is not knowing you have a fault.
That metal you are machining is going to be put into something else and if that something else has a piece of metal in it that has not been machined to perfection, then your end product is at risk.
Furthermore, the accuracy and service life of the lathe will be reduced.
If you want your metal to be cut effectively, the carriage to move as it should, the thread to do its thing then ensure you buy a lathe that won’t fail you. Let’s have a look at five of the best out there.
Best Benchtop Metal Lathe
OUR TOP PICK
Best for heavy construction. Offers quality and solid performance in a range of projects.
The motor often lets a lathe down, but not with this one.
The motor’s energy is well distributed across the machine.
The gearbox in a lathe needs to withstand the power.
This lathe features helical cutting gear which acts to reduce noise, while facilitating fast and easy changes and adjustments.
Bigger splash guards maintain the integrity of the machine.
Being constructed with resistant materials means this is one durable lathe.
- Noise reduction -your ears aren't going to be killing you and you won't annoy the neighbours.
- A gearbox that is easy to understand for changes and adjustments, and is quiet.
- Helical cutting for a smoother experience.
- Gap bed extension for larger diameter work.
- Quite pricey but worth the money
An excellent lathe for gunsmithing
Working at multiple different speeds, from a very low 70 RPM up to a steady 1400 RPM, this lathe is perfect for gunsmithing and similar projects.
It’s easy to control meaning the Shop Fox M1112 is a good beginners choice.
Including, as it does, a tool post with a piston-type tool holder, you can change the tooling very quickly. This serves both experienced people and beginners well.
One of the handwheels is responsible for the carriage’s movements and can be placed on the right or left side of the bed.
This gives more control over operations. Another handwheel is responsible for cross slides.
The ease of movement of the cross slide to different positions from the working area really helps performance.
This handwheel, and the compound handwheel, give complete control over the machine’s
- Variety of working speeds
- 6-inch chuck with 3 jaws, and an 8-inch chuck with 4-jaws
- Tool post that makes for quick adjustment processes
- Cast iron stand and extended base
- Very low noise level
- Doesn’t include a chip guard for the chuck
The Recommended Best Value Benchtop Lathe On This List
This lathe is perfect for semi-professional work.
A brushless motor that is good enough to produce larger torque and can also provide the right amount of energy. Energy bursts are reduced.
The machine’s lifespan is increased.
The motor works at 750W and produces a variety of spindle speeds, from a low range of 50 to 1250 rotations per minute to a more powerful high range of 100 to 2500 rotations per minute.
Different working speeds allow you to effectively design and create a variety of projects.
Does not require external tools to adjust pieces.
Highly wear-resistant and durable.
A great tool if you have multiple projects in mind, although this does require a detailed adjustment process.
- Offers the highest benchtop lathe efficiency
- The motor provides a lot of powering capacity
- Offers a range of accessories
- Free movable lamp
- A good range of variable speeds
- Steady and constant work frequency during operation
- Good for sample processing
- Effortless to use
- Solid performance in various tasks
- Great for professionals and hobbyists
- High precision and versatility for multiple applications
- The setting up takes some time.
Our Recommended Best Metal Lathe
This versatile lathe is great for different metals and projects.
Delivers precision and is suitable for different types of metals. Works perfectly under many applications. It has incredible performance for turning, but can also drill and cut materials.
Versatility means you can use it to execute a wide range of projects, such as precision work, processing parts, sample processing, and modeling projects.
Its main power source is a 0.75 horsepower motor with 550W and 110 voltages which produces the requisite energy and maintains a constant and steady work frequency.
Extra accessories can be adapted to the machine with the appropriate changing gear. Adjust the pieces to best suit the project.
Includes tools to increase and close the jaws, providing a solid grip around materials of different sizes. Regardless of the material the machine will hold it tight.
- Highly effective
- Capable of providing solid performance in different tasks
- Easy to use
- Accessible price
- The motor could have more powering capacity
This is a great lathe if you are not looking for a big machine and your projects do not require bulky and extravagant tools.
Can be placed almost anywhere and is perfect if you are using it from the comfort of your home.
Powered up by a capable 3/4 horsepower motor.
Multiple working speeds with multiple ranges. The speeds vary from 0 to 1100 rotations per minute to 2500 rotations per minute.
he different speeds work great for both forward and reverse directions. This means it’s a versatile tool, offering more control over the metals.
Other specifications are a 7-inch swing and a 12-inch distance from the center. It also features a dial indicator to keep track of the machine’s functionality and standard handwheels for better graduation.
It weighs 74 pounds making it one of the lightest metal lathes around.
- Multiple speed ranges
- Works forward and in reverse effectively
- Features a dial indicator for threading
- Not suitable for big projects
- Takes some time to get used to the machine’s functionality
- Variable speeds are great for beginners
- Excellent fit and finish
- Perfect choice if you need a lighter lathe that can easily be moved
- Great face-plate
- Adjustable tailstock
- Good cam-lock action
- Torque may not be up to cutting larger pieces at slow speeds
- Compounds slide can vibrate loose
If you want your metal to be cut effectively, the carriage to move as it should, the thread to do its thing then ensure you buy a lathe that won’t fail you.
The main causes of lathe failure are:
- Poor installation
- Inaccurate assembly
- Mechanical corrosion
- Mechanical wear failure
- Aging of electronic components
- Poor plug-in contact
- Current and voltage fluctuations
- Temperature changes
- Driveshaft bearing fault
- Spindle heating causing failure
- Mechanical oil leak
- Vibration problems
- Improper maintenance
- Unreasonable use
It is essential to ensure that technical parameters regarding processing range and capabilities are accounted for.
And finally, remember to protect yourself with the proper safety equipment, including goggles, gloves, and face masks.
Options play a big part in deciding which lathe to buy. There are a lot of choices, even within the same brand and size range, so research carefully.
When buying new, download the manuals to see exactly what features they have. When buying used, look for details like a separate drive shaft for the carriage or an old collet chuck sitting in the back.
Here are some of the key factors to consider:
Imperial Or Metric
Metric may be more modern but imperial sizes are still often applied to stock, hardware, and tools in North America.
For machine tool work, there is a minimal practical difference. For dimensioning tasks in the typical range of machine parts imperial is easier. Metric is better when working with hardware, such as drilling and tapping holes, choosing and measuring fasteners.
The basic options are household AC, three-phase AC, and DC.
A household AC machine generally uses belts or gears to change the speed. Using a big rheostat upstream of its power cord makes things more flexible.
Three-phase AC is typical of big industrial machines.
Brushless DC is an option, offering a lot of torque for size, with newer Asian models. They also offer infinitely variable speed control for free.
Power Deed Options
Benchtop machines typically only have longitudinal power feed. Some higher-end benchtop machines are starting to offer power cross-feed as well; very useful for larger diameter pieces.
It also helps get smooth parting operations. Larger machines will have power cross-feed.
Lathe specifications to look out for include things such as...
- Swing over Bed
- Swing over Cross Slide
- Swing through gap
- Distance between centre
- Inches Spindle Bore
- Inches Spindle Mount
- Spinder Taple With Sleeve
- Spindle Speeds
- Longitudinal Feeds
- Range of Cross Feeds
- Maximum Tool Size
- Compound Slide Travel
- Carrier Travel
- TailStock Spindle Travel
- Taiper In Tailstock Spindle
- Steady Rest Capacity
- Follow Rest Capacity
- Width of Bed
- Stand Motor
Phew! That was a lot to take in.
Here's the specifications of my top pick the Jet BDB...
- Swing over bed:13 inches
- Swing over cross slide: 7-25/32 inches
- Swing through gap: 18-3/4 inches
- Length of gap: 8 inches
- Distance between centers: 40 inches
- Spindle bore: 1-3/8-inch
- Spindle mount: D1-4
- Spindle taper with sleeve: MT-5 (MT-3)
- Spindle speeds: 12; 60 to 1,240 RPM
- Longitudinal feeds: 40; 0.0018 to 0.0374
- IPRRange of cross feeds: 0.0012 to 0.0345
- IPRInch thread: s40; 4 to 112
- TPIMetric threads: 27; 0.2 to 6
- Maximum tool size: 5/8 x 5/8-inch
- Compound slide travel: 2-11/16 inches
- Cross slide travel: 6-5/16 inches
- Carriage travel: 35 inches
- Tailstock spindle travel: 3-3/4 inches
- Taper in tailstock spindle: MT-3
- Steady rest capacity: 2-5/8 inches
- Follow rest capacity: 2-3/4 inches
- Width of bed: 7-3/8 inches
- Overall dimensions: 71 x 32 x 45 inches (LxWxH)
- StandMotor2 HP, 1Ph, 230-volt only
- Weight: 1,175 pounds
Lower-end machines will have a four-way tool post, which holds one cutting tool, and this can cause injury to the hands. Tool height is set with shims, which takes effort.
For a little more money, you can generally get a Quick Change Tool Post QCTP. On these, tool height is set with a thumbscrew on the tool holder, and the setting is permanently saved with each tool.
Really old machines will have ‘lantern’ tool posts, which use a curved wedge to set tool height and angle. These aren’t very rigid.
Chucks, Rests And Other Accessories
Independent four-jaw chucks are the most versatile and necessary for precision work. Three-jaw scroll chucks are a convenience. You also want a faceplate for all the odd-shaped things.
Other options include a collet chuck, 4-jaw scroll chuck, and six-jaw chucks. These are very expensive but older project machines often come with these.
The top pick in this post, the Jet BDB, comes with everything you need including the following...
- Standard Equipment
- Coolant tray
- 6-inch 3-jaw direct mount scroll chuck with top reversing jaws
- 8-inch 4-jaw independent chuck
- 12-inch faceplate
- Four-way tool post
- Steady and follow rest
- Metric change gear
- Centers with headstock center sleeve
- Threading dial
- Micro Carriage Bed Stop
- Full Length Splash Guard
- Tolerance test certificate
- Tool box with tools
Ideally you want at least 12 months warranty though more is advisable.
My top pick in this post, the Jet BDB, comes with a 2 year warranty...
They have authorised 750 authorised service centres throughout the USA that can give you quick service and Walter Meier Authorized Service Centers can authorize warranty repair or help you find parts or perform maintenance.
Product Dimensions & Weight
The top pick on this list, the Jet BDB, comes in the following dimensions...
- 75.5 x 29.75 x 29 inches
And weighs the following...
- 1170 pounds
Frequently Asked Questions About The Best Bench Top Metal Lathes
Why Isn’t It Cutting Properly?
Check the lathe is in the correct position at the center of the piece. Watch out for friction on the tip causing excessive heat. Take frequent breaks to allow the proper cooling.
What Determines What It Can Make?
The size and power of the lathe will determine what can be made with it.
Which Lubricants To Use?
There will be lubrication or coolant required for every metal that is worked with. The amount and type will depend on the metal and the heat produced from cutting the metal. Dry, flood, or mist are the three options. Dry can be used for small, quick lathing. Flood cooling for larger jobs. A job that only requires quick cuts that are spaced out can have misting.
What If The Threads Won’t Cut Properly?
A transposing gear might be needed. The lathe’s RPMs should be lowered.
What Causes Malfunction?
It could be that the tailstock is not properly fixed. Inspect the screws and tighten if necessary. Check for loose parts or screws.
How Difficult Is It To Mount A Work Table To A Lathe?
Only three clearance holes are needed for some in the underside of the adapter plate. Others might need a central boss turned in addition to the drilled bolt holes.
How Do You Ensure That The Tool Bit’s Cutting Edge Is On Centerline?
Turning all five of the longer supporting pillars to the same correct length ensures that the tabletop is exactly 32mm lower than the centerline. This is the location of the tool post’s cutter top.
What Are The Safety Principles?
- CSA -certified safety glasses should be worn.
- Remove any loose jewelry or clothing.
- Make sure that long hair is confined.
- Make sure there aren’t any slipping hazards or obstacles on the floor.
- The start and stop buttons should be easily reached.
- There should be an emergency stop button.
- Follow the specifications for the materials being turned for feed, cut depth and speed.
- The work should run centered and true.
- There should be support for the piece that is being turned. Ensure that the center drill work is done deeply enough.
- The tool rest and tool should be adjusted slightly above the work’s center.
- A lifting device should be used to handle heavy work or chunks.
- Chucks should be inspected for damage or wear.
- Immediately after the chuck is adjusted the chuck wrench should be removed.
- When lathes are used in automatic or semi-automatic mode the barrier guard should be used.
- Parts that transmit power should be guarded.
- Measuring instruments, tools, and all other objects should be removed from the bed of the lathe or the saddle before turning the machine on.
- Cutting tools should be kept sharp.
- Shields for coolant and the chip should be in place.
- The motor should be turned off before adding or removing accessories.
- The lathe should be stopped before measurements are taken.
- Remove cuttings with a brush, rake or vacuum once the lathe has completely stopped.
- The working surface should be free of materials, tools, and scraps.
- The floor should be free of grease and oil.
So What's The Best Benchtop Metal Lathe?
My #1 pick for best benchtop late is the Jet BDB-1340A and here's why...
- Offers quality and solid performance in a range of projects.
- The two horse power capacity on the Jet BDB offers a pleasant working experience, unencumbered by vibration and noise.
- This lathe features helical cutting gear which acts to reduce noise, while facilitating fast and easy changes and adjustments.
- The noise reduction feature means your ears aren't going to be ringing whilst using it and you won't annoy your neighbours.
- The experience is smooth and stable and easy to control.
For all those reasons and more the Jet BDB-1340A is my #1 pick and you can get it here...
Last update on 2023-11-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API